'Damn Yankees,' the musical for sports fans and thespians

Jason Baldwin, above, stars in “Damn Yankees” as Joe Hardy, the young, long ball hitter for the Washington Senators (Courtesy of Lindquist college of Arts and Humanities)

Usually, students hear a baseball cracking against a bat and referees shouting outside on the baseball diamond, not inside the Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts.

However, students will be hearing just that, as part of Weber State University’s department of performing art’s production of the 1950s award-winning Broadway musical “Damn Yankees.”

Based on the Faustian legend, Joe Boyd, a middle-aged Washington Senators fan, makes a deal with Mr. Applegate, the Devil disguised as a fast-talking salesman. Boyd pawns his soul to Mr. Applegate to become Joe Hardy, the home-run-hitter his beloved Senators desperately need to beat the Yankees.

Colton Hattabaugh, senior in musical theater, will be playing Mr. Applegate, the charmingly insidious Devil in disguise. Hattabaugh thinks audiences of all ages and tastes will enjoy “Damn Yankees.”

“I think it’s a classic musical,” Hattabaugh said. “You could say it came from the golden age of musicals. A wide range of audiences, from young people to older people, will enjoy the show. It has a lot of sports in it, so anyone who likes baseball or sports would enjoy it as well.”

Director of musical theater studies and director of “Damn Yankees” Jim Christian agreed, saying that this production is a unique blend of sports and theater that audiences won’t find anywhere else.

“It’s a really nice fusion of the performing arts and athletics,” Christian said. “It’s a subject matter and form for everybody, and it’s one of the great pieces of musical theater that is performed time and time again.”

Jason Baldwin, sophomore in musical theater, stars as Joe Hardy, the young, virile, long-ball hitter destined to save the Senators from another embarrassing season. While Baldwin has starred in several productions in and around WSU, Baldwin attributes the success of productions like “Damn Yankees” to strong fellow cast members as well as excellent instructors like professor and director Jim Christian.

“He is so genius at what he does,” Baldwin said. “His direction and his choreography are just so clever, fun and energetic and he brings people to life. Because of his direction, the talent in the cast is able to blossom and grow.”

Christian, Hattabaugh and Baldwin all encouraged students to attend “Damn Yankees.” Each noted that they think students will enjoy the story and connect with the characters.

“Everybody wants something in life, and this is one of those shows that if you want to come and relate to somebody in order to escape your own problems, definitely come see it,” Baldwin said. “Not only that, it’s also about a baseball team and sports fanatics would enjoy the show.”

Hattabaugh said he sees a lot of similarities in Joe Hardy’s situation and many students. While not many students have to outsmart the Devil, Hattabaugh notes that many students have to make difficult, life-changing decisions, just as Joe Hardy did.

“Joe has to decide whether he wants to be a big baseball star or if he wants to continue on with his wife, who he’s been with all his life,” Hattabaugh said. “He has to make important decisions about what matters, and that’s what everybody goes through.”

“Damn Yankees” will run Feb. 20-21 and 24-28 in the Allred Theater in the Val A. Browning Center. Tickets for “Damn Yankees” are available online, in the Browning Center administrative offices or from the box office just prior to the show. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students who present a valid WSU student ID at time of purchase.